mom and her sisters seem to have a special talent for telling family lore, some truth, some myth. we've found, as a family, to "trust but verify" as mr. reagan put it, before taking their stories as gospel.
my uncle, gerry was in wwII. he spent his tour on iwo jima. he was proud of his service. my father was a bit envious. he spent the war stateside, stationed at west point (that's how he met my mom.....but that's another story). needless to say, dad didn't see any action. he'd wanted to be a fighter pilot.....bad eyes kept him from his wish.
when gerry died, mom and i went down for the funeral as did her sisters and last remaining brother. the funeral is another story in itself. my aunts and uncles can be a handful and loud! but, i digress.
as we sat around the kitchen table at the neighbor's house we'd inhabited for the days surrounding the funeral, my aunts told many stories about their beloved brother. the one that stood out for me was about his time on iwo jima.
you all know that famous picture of the soldiers raising the flag on the island at the end of the war? well, the sisters had somehow gotten hold of the "fact" that gerry was at that flag raising. not only was he there, but he was part of the picture. (which by the way, i learned from jefferson was a posed photo. the photographer missed the first flag raising, so they restaged it to capture it for posterity). they were so proud of their little brother being such a big part of history. hell, i was pretty impressed myself. i had an uncle who was part of history in a big way......every body knew that photo.
when gerry's daughter, tori came up to stay with me during surgery, she brought all her family tree research along with her. she figured she'd share it with me in my more coherent moments. she's done an amazing amount of research about our family and it's beginnings outside of naples, italy. our grandparents were immigrants to this country coming through ellis island, in it's heyday.
i was blown away by all the material she'd collected. as we sat, the third day after my surgery, going through birth, death and wedding certificates, naturalization papers for grandma, i decided to ask tori about the iwo jima story.
tori, have you ever heard the aunts talk about your dad on iwo jima?
well, story has it that gerry was at the flag raising....you know, the famous one in the picture.
she laughed so hard, she had to catch her breath before looking, wide-eyed at me:
you've got to be kidding? they've been telling that tale?
god yes.....it's been circulating in the family for years. i heard it at your dad's funeral.
well honey, he was on iwo jima. but he wasn't in that photo!
we had a good laugh over the aunts and their rewrite of history (seems a family trait with some).
a year after my surgery, tori sent me a package.
i sat on my bed, opening it......wondering what she could be sending me.
laying on top of all those polystyrene peanuts was a note:
i'd meant this to be a get well present for you. it was my intent to send it right after your surgery. it's been sitting in my kitchen for a year.
however, in the year it's been sitting here, i found the perfect thing to put in it. i thought you might like an updated picture of dad.
ps: feel free to change the photo.
well, i knew it was a frame. and i was happy she'd sent me a picture of my uncle. he always made me laugh.
i dumped the peanuts on my bed to get to the frame. she'd put it in the box upside down. as i turned it over, all i could do was laugh!
in the frame was a copy of the black and white photo of the soldiers raising the flag at iwo jima. i've never changed the photo. it sits facing my bed and is one of the first things i see in the morning. it makes me laugh...........